One Month At A Time

October Films! “The Devil’s Candy”

I’ve got a bit of a backlog of movies to report on. There’s been some time to watch spooky stuff, but not much time to write about it.

“The Devil’s Candy” is a film that has come up a couple of times on Facebook. A few of my Facebook pals have spoken highly of it. So, sure, I decided to give it a try.

Released in 2015, the film stars Ethan Embry, an actor I remember from the 90s films “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “That Thing You Do,” and “Empire Records.”

He was also in “Dutch.”

I remember him as kind of a wide-eyed, sort of goofy, but generally likeable character actor, but I lost track of him somewhere around 2000, where he moved on to more serious stuff.

With the stringy blond hair, ragged beard and tattoos, Embry is barely recognizable as the approaching middle-age metal-head father and painter, Jesse Hellman, in “The Devil’s Candy,” though his character has some of the same earnestness that you see in his earlier work.

The story revolves around Jesse, his wife and daughter moving into an old house with a bad history. The previous owners died –apparently by accident, everyone in the film believes (though we know different).

It’s a nice house and “Gee, wouldn’t it be a shame to let the place go to waste just because of a couple of dead people?”

This all seems like stupid horror film logic, but then again, I’ve been through the whole home buying process. When you’re looking for some place half decent that’s in your budget, you’re willing to put up with a lot.

I’d be OK with some dead people just to have some better windows. Cultists could definitely have tried to call up C’thulhu at some point, if it would have knocked a hundred bucks a month off my mortgage.

It beats renting.

Boiled down, the thread of “Hard Candy” follows bad things are happening, a reluctant serial killer serves the devil, loiters around the family home, which used to belong to his parents.

The cops know about the serial killer, of course, but seem to figure that it was just a phase, something he did when he was a kid, but he’s fine now, except for creeping everyone out.

Then things get worse. People die. There is some teen angst and Mom isn’t a huge fan of heavy metal music for some reason, though she’s married to a guy who looks he’s a roadie for Slayer.

How does that even happen?

“The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but it is also a mess. There’s a vein of demon possession or demonic influence that may be connected to the house, to Pruitt Taylor Vince’s tortured serial killer character or even to Jesse, but then there’s the issue with the painting Embry’s character is working on.

Is it prophesy, a warning, a love letter from hell?

Who can say? Maybe all three. Maybe something else.

And what’s the deal with the art dealer (played by an uncredited F. Murray Abraham) named Belial, who shows up to maybe tempt Jesse?

Thanks to a good long time spent playing “Dungeons and Dragons,” I know the name Belial belongs to a Duke of Hell. So all the hours spent reading the “Monster Manual II” during high school weren’t wasted.

Abraham is there, he pours a couple of drinks, and splits without accomplishing a lot, except maybe saying again that the devil is involved with Jesse on a very personal level.

It has to be the name, Jesse Hellman. He’s Hell’s man, get it?

Anyway, the ending almost feels like something out of a Kirk Cameron film. I wasn’t satisfied with it and felt like it was a cop out.

As I said, “The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but not particularly smart. The acting is good, even if the story could have used some fine tuning.

You can find “The Devil’s Candy” on Netflix.

October Horror Films Return!

Through the month of October, “One Month at a Time” will be watching lots of seasonal horror films and sharing our (my) findings.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t watched a lot of scary movies lately. I used to watch them by the metric ton, back when there were things called video stores, but with the decline of the brick and mortar places, I’ve fallen into watching whatever is on Netflix or Amazon.

The experience isn’t the same and also, with so many choices, it’s hard to find anything actually worth watching.

On the one hand, it’s awesome that obscure indie directors can get their low budget, hand-crafted movies out to where people can watch them. On the other, nobody at Amazon, Netflix or the other streaming services seems to care what they run –just so long as there’s not too much nudity.

There’s no real filter –and those star ratings systems are often pointless.

Besides, decent horror films often get trashed in the ratings by killjoys who really wanted to watch the British Baking Show, but got stuck watching something spooky because they lost a coin toss.

Anyway, I’ve spent the last couple of years, like everyone else, watching endless seasons of “The Office” and “Supernatural,” but this month, I’m trying to dig in there and watch some honest-to-Goodness horror films. While I can’t promise one a day, I can probably get a couple in a week.

Here’s the first:

“Hell House LLC”

hell-house-llc

My first film out of the gate is a shakey-cam film about a Halloween haunted house attraction production crew that sets up shop in an old, upstate New York hotel with a bit of a history. Bad things happened. There may have been a cult. It really doesn’t matter. Thinking too deeply is only going to hurt the ball club.

The main thing is the place is haunted and the folks who signed on to make some money during Halloween are slowly drawn into a nightmare.

While there is a bit of blood, it’s not especially gory. The film is trying for more of a documentary feel and the malevolent forces at work are more about efficiency than grandstanding with a lot of organs getting tossed around.

It’s a little bit “Blair Witch Project” meets “The House on Haunted Hill,” but I mean that in the most complimentary ways.

As is usual with haunted house films, the audience figures out everybody should just pack up and go someplace else approximately one hour and 20 minutes before the end credits, but where’s the fun in that?

“Hell House LLC” is fun. It’s legitimately creepy and even when you know where it’s all going, that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun ride.

You can find this one on Amazon Prime.

 

Celtic Movies #2: Rob Roy

Through the month of February, I’m studying (celebrating) all things Celtic (mostly, Scottish) and have been watching films related to Scotland (sort of).

My second film was “Rob Roy” with Qui-Gon Ginn and that lady who escaped from off the set of “American Horror Story.”

rob-royReleased in 1995 (near the same time as “Braveheart”), the film was more mining of Scottish history, this time about Rob Roy MacGregor, who gets tangled up in debt over some cows and Tim Roth in drag, which was totally cool in the 1700s.

It even wastes the usually very decent John Hurt (Still awesome in “Alien” and as Caligula in “I, Claudius”), who tends to elevate whatever crap thing he’s signed on for (Does anyone remember “King Ralph?”)

Ugh…I hated this movie.

To me, it was like the worst parts of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and something the BBC abandoned to spend on “Dr. Who” episodes instead.

Lord, this thing dragged and within 30 minutes, I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the MacGregors, Lord Montrose, Archibald Cunningham or the whole of Scotland –though I did see the point of those weird sashes that come with some kilts (SPOILER: They can be used as a kind of snuggie).

Based on material gleaned from Wikipedia, “Rob Roy” was a much more true-to-history tale than “Braveheart,” but that’s not saying much. Episodes of “Quantum Leap” were more truthful to history, even if you forgot about the invisible guy in the bad suits wandering around.

quantum72
I’ve seen the future and it works…

 

For me, the only bright spot was the hope that after Roth and Eric Stolz, a few more actors from “Pulp Fiction” to show up, waving swords and promising to go medieval and someone’s butt, but alas no John Travolta and no Samuel L. Jackson.

samuel-l-jackson
There really isn’t a movie, Samuel Jackson doesn’t improve.

Anyway, I muscled through “Rob Roy” for another hour, but realized it wasn’t getting any better. So, I quit and watched an episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which has nothing to do with Scotland, though I suspect Neil Patrick Harris has probably vacationed there.

Back to the library for me.

Celtic movies: #1 “Braveheart”

Over the next couple of weeks, while I’m trying to immerse myself in all things Celtic (mostly Scottish), I’ll be watching whatever Scottish-related films I can get my hands on.

braveheart-poster
You may take our lives, but you will never figure out how to do our accents!

The first was a re-watching of “Braveheart,” the 1995 film that kind of made Mel Gibson more than your basic action star. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five, including best picture and best director.

Based very loosely on the legend of Scottish bada$$ William Wallace, who raised an army and fought the English, the film was wildly controversial in Scotland for it’s mendacious mangling of history for the sake of cinema.

Also, nobody liked Mel’s accent, which does tend to slip in and out, but in all fairness, he’s an American from Australia trying to sound like a Scotsman. He was doomed from the start.

Still, horrible abuse of Scottish history or not, Scottish tourism embraced the film with both arms for a while, offered tours and there was even a statue erected somewhere that looked a lot like Mel Gibson.

The locals hated it, but people kept spending money.

In looking at the film all over, I was reminded that Mel Gibson has a tendency toward gore that almost turns comic. Fights in the film often go well over the top with a variety of impalings, limbs being lopped off and gallons of blood flowing in every direction.

Even with some betrayals on the side of the Scottish cause, the film scans as very black and white. The English are universally horrible. The Scottish commoners are all noble and earnest, even if their leaders are kind of slimy opportunists.

I’m not fond of the characterization of King Edward’s son, who is clearly portrayed as effeminate, craven and gay for the sake of contrasting him with his severe, alpha male father and giving the audience another reason to dislike him –but blockbuster films of the time, of which this one was, tended to paint in broad, dumb strokes.

Also, it’s not a true to the man. According to history, the guy with the boyfriend who gets tossed out a window (SPOILER) had five kids by two women, which doesn’t absolutely say he wasn’t gay, but might be evidence that he didn’t loathe the company of women.

Still, overall, “Braveheart” is a good action epic that has held up fairly well over the last 20 years, even if Gibson’s career hasn’t. It’s more fun than pretty much everything Michael Bay ever released, even if the film isn’t as accurate as an episode of “Drunk History.”

“Braveheart” looks great, has all the excitement of a big, popcorn-munching film and has some heart.

I liked it.

“Asylum” with Founders Porter

Continuing October’s Thrills and Chills theme, I’m writing about horror movies and beer on the blog. Today’s film is the 1972 flick “Asylum.”

Our beer is Founders Porter.

The Movie: “Asylum.”

asylum

I had high hopes for this one. A lot of the cooler, quirkier horror films came out of the late 1960s and early 1970s –and I have always been a Peter Cushing fan (Most people remember him as the guy who was Darth Vader’s boss in “Star Wars” or as the guy who did those meh “Dr. Who” films).

The description on Amazon listed him as a star and sold the film as one of the best horror anthologies.

No. No, it isn’t.

“Creepshow,” off the top of my head, is much, much better.

At best, “Asylum” is a bland, uninspired mess with thinly drawn characters, a dull plot and special effects on par with the aforementioned “Dr. Who” television show of the time. The brightest moment in the whole thing concerned a batch of idiotic looking robot toys that sort of become grotesque by the end –but it really feels like the film missed out by just being cheap.

If the producers should have doubled the film’s budget to at least $20 they might have had something, but they must have sunk all their money in fabulous location shooting or a good booze for the writers or something.

Likewise, Peter Cushing is only barely in the movie. He shows up twice in one of the vignettes, but little depth is given to the motivation of his character.

Basically, Cushing is wasted on this, and I’d need to be wasted to watch this again.

It’s not even bad enough to be fun for the wrong reasons –just dull.

The Beer: Founders Porter.

porter

I bought this one entirely for the witchy-like lady on the cover –and had hoped to spend this beer on something good, but alas, no…

I liked the beer. It had nice chocolatey/coffee notes and a light chewy mouth-feel. I like a good porter and this one was pretty decent –but not as good as my beloved Big Timber porter.

Got a movie? Got Beer? Think the two would go together. Let me know. Drop me a line at lynch@wvgazettemail.com –or just post here.

“Let The Right One In” with Magic Hat #9

Continuing our monthly exploration of what beers go with which horror films, I picked out an old one, 2008’s Swedish vampire film, “Let the Right One In,” and one of my go to beers when I can’t find anything better to drink, Magic Hat #9.

The Film:

letrightonein

“Let the Right One In” is about the difficulty of finding a true friend and navigating the world when you’re an outsider. In some ways, “Let the Right One In” is like a lot of other teen dramas, except periodically someone is brutally murdered and drained of their blood.

The story revolved around Eli and Oskar, a couple of 12 year-olds living in the armpit of the Sweden (which isn’t really all that bad, just kind of run down). Oskar is a meek and awkward kid who is being continuously bullied by a group of his classmates. At night, he spends his time fantasizing about stabbing his tormentors and collecting newspaper clippings of brutal murders.

Eli is a centuries old vampire shacked up with an old guy named Hakan who acts as a kind of caretaker and henchman.

If this were “Dracula,” Hakan would be Renfield, a thrall, but Eli and Hakan’s relationship is not so cut and dried. He loves Eli, but it’s a weird kind of devotion that is difficult to define –not exactly the love of a parent for a child, a child for a parent or a husband for a wife, but something of all three.

Eli and Oskar meet. Eli says he can’t be Oskar’s friend and immediately begins manifesting unnatural abilities. Oskar misses the social cues that would warn other people to stay away or maybe invest in a firearm.

They become friends anyway, despite Eli’s misgivings.

The pair learns from each other –Oskar learns to be brave when he has a weapon in hand and can easily overpower his opponent; Eli learns the secrets to the Rubik’s Cube.

The audience learns that cats do not like vampires. At all.

Joking aside, I’ve loved this one since I first saw it. It does a pretty good job of capturing the wide-eyed naivete of being 12, while also showing that being a pre-teen vampire is a drag.

The Beer:

Pairing the film with Magic Hat #9 wasn’t exactly inspired, but it was what I had stashed in the back of my fridge. I did have a batch of beer I got from the Wine and Cheese shop at the Capitol Market earlier in the day, but all of that stuff was still warm.

Still, Magic Hat #9 is a pretty good beer –not a great beer, not a life changing beer (which does not exist unless said beer suddenly makes me 10 years younger) –but a pretty good beer. It’s a good beer to have after mowing a lawn or raking leaves. It’s a good beer with a fairly depressing slice of vegan pizza. It’s a good beer to slug down whether you’re binge-watching some weird Canadian sci fi show on Netflix or catching an old film that’s held up pretty well despite the various advancements in vampire movies.

First off, let me say that I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers.

Flavored beers taste like a marketing ploy aimed at rich sorority girls and shandys are like the Arnies of the beer world (An Arnie is a half lemonade and half iced tea. Recently passed golfing legend Arnold Palmer drank them so often, people started calling the drink by his name.

Still, I wasn’t paying for Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Shandy and it seemed like a good start to this month’s “One Month at a Time” side project: pairing beers with horror films.

First up, “The Witch.” 

the witch

IMDb describes it as “A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

The set up is a Puritan family leaves town after they have falling out with the local church authorities over some interpretation of the New Testament.

I missed what they were arguing over, but given the time period, it could have been over punctuation.

The family moves out on their own, where they establish a poor farm, struggle to feed themselves and somehow attract the attention of the local witch who then tirelessly works to destroy them.

On its face, “The Witch” is like a lot of similar films set during the Salem Witch Trials era. Christians in the new world are under siege by what they perceive to be diabolical forces. In many of these films, the villain turns out to be the Christians themselves, who are just thick-headed jerks or whatever.

This one goes in an entirely different direction.

The devil is very much at work on this small family and there’s no real explanation for why, other than “just ’cause.” There is no logical reason why Satan is interested in this particular family and nearly as disturbing there’s no help on the way. God is in his heaven and can’t be bothered to lift a finger to help a (possibly) slightly misguided but devout farmer, his wife and their five innocent children. No heroic, young preacher stops in to save them with a glowing cross or just the right prayer. Angels don’t turn up wielding a flaming sword.

The family is effortlessly crushed under the hoof of something far beyond their understanding.

It was kind of fascinating to watch a horror film so relentlessly bleak and pessimistic.

In some ways, “The Witch” reminded me of something like “Jaws,” where the people are warned not to leave the safety of the beach because there’s this giant shark trolling out there in the ocean somewhere, which will eat them if it gets the chance. Everybody shrugs it off, of course. They know better, go for a swim and, predictably, are eaten.

The Beer: Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy

pumpkinbeer

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers –and this one is no exception. It has a rich, pumpkin flavor, which would be perfect if it was Thanksgiving and you just didn’t feel like dunking your pumpkin pie into a frosty mug of Coors Light while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I don’t know. Maybe this is for the all girls in yoga pants to sip on when they get bored of their gas station grade Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I wasn’t impressed, but I finished the bottle.

I liked “The Witch,” and the Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy technically paired well with the movie. Both were thought-provoking and had an unexpected flavor, but, were each, in their own way, kind of depressing.